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Adeana McNicholl

Research and Teaching

I specialize in Buddhism, with a focus on early South Asian Buddhism and American Buddhism. In my research and my teaching I am interested in the relationship between religion and the body and embodied identities, including race, gender, and sexuality.

My forthcoming book project uses the body as a framework for understanding early South Asian Buddhist ghost (Sanskrit preta) stories. I examine how portrayals of the non-human body of the Buddhist preta helped monks think about, and shape ideologies, about human bodies and embodied identities. I show that pretas were at the center of changing cosmological ideas in ancient India. Their stories reflect changes in ancestral rituals as well as the development of karma as a law of moral cause and effect.

My interest in embodiment extends to the modern period. My second research project examines Buddhism and race in North America. In this work I place black Buddhists within local and transnational discourses of religion, race, and empire. I argue that our understanding of the transmission of Buddhism to the West is incomplete without consideration of African American engagement with Asian religions.

I co-directed with Ann Gleig the “Teaching Race and Racism in Buddhist Studies” project for Teaching Buddhist Studies, funded by the Robert. H. N. Ho Family Foundation Centre at the University of Toronto. This project compiles a selection of pedagogical resources for the incorporation of race and racism into Buddhist Studies classes.


The link to the project is here: http://teachingbuddhism.net/teaching-race-and-racism/

 Selected Publications

  • McNicholl, Adeana. “Buddhism and Race in the United States.” Religion Compass. 2021. 1–13. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/rec3.12412
  • McNicholl, Adeana. “The Generative Power of Disgust: Aesthetics and the Abject Preta Body.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. 43 (2020). 129–165.
  • McNicholl, Adeana. “Being Buddha, Staying Woke: Racial Formation in Black Buddhist Writings.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 86 (4). 2018. 883–911. https://doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/lfy019